Editorial Illustration: Communicating an Idea Visually | Anita Kunz | Skillshare

Editorial Illustration: Communicating an Idea Visually

Anita Kunz, Artist and Illustrator

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7 Lessons (34m)
    • 1. Trailer

      5:57
    • 2. Developing Your Idea

      5:57
    • 3. Concepting

      3:42
    • 4. Sketching Ideas

      6:55
    • 5. Illustrating

      6:47
    • 6. Finalizing

      3:49
    • 7. More Creative Classes on Skillshare

      0:33
19 students are watching this class

About This Class

I've been doing cover illustrations for years, working on many projects for The New Yorker, Time Magazine, and BusinessWeek to name a few. All of these projects have one thing in common: identifying your metaphor, and visually running with it.

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My illustrations require a thoughtful concepting process that helps me find that appropriate metaphor. This metaphor is the meat and potatoes of editorial illustration. In this class, you'll get a glimpse of my process: from concepting your metaphor and it's symbolism, to developing your sketch, to finally completing your illustration. This is the process I go through for commissioned editorial illustrations as well as fine art creation.

What You'll Learn

  • Your Idea. We'll explore the current political scene and relevant stories in the media to research and explore metaphors and symbolism.
  • Concepting. We'll concept your chosen issue and brainstorm around its visual representation.
  • Sketching. We'll sketch out various ideas for your metaphor to come to life.
  • Illustrating. We'll work with a variety of color mediums to illustrate your piece.
  • Finalizing. We will put finishing touches on your coloring, and we'll touch on professionalizing your approach

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What You'll Do

As I create a full commissioned editorial illustration, you will follow along and create your own! You will be challenged to think about a current political event or relevant issue in the media to concept out and illustrate. I will teach you constructive ways to identify your concept, bring it to life, challenge the issue at hand, and have a nice visual aesthetic.

Concepting and illustrating your ideas is a critical skill in communicating as an artist. Editorial illustrators have the unique opportunity to share their vision with a general audience. I am going to teach you how to communicate clearly through your art as a conscious image maker, rather than a slave to your medium.

Transcripts

1. Trailer: Okay. So step one is choose your idea. Now, there should be any number of things going on in the world that appeal to you one way or the other, either positively or negatively and so I'll show you five examples of ways that I've visualized an idea. So let's start with number one. This is an example that I came up with. This is something that happened when Rome or Italy was threatening to leave the European Union. So I came up with the word of Exodus. I started thinking how could I illustrate that using metaphor, using emotion, and basically came up with this idea using the old Roman urns that were decorated with Olympians. Since it's called Exodus, instead of being on the urn, I've got them leaving the urn. So it was just a little visual play on words, but it's how you can begin to illustrate ideas, sometimes with humor, sometimes in a more serious manner, but you can just sort of bring something interesting visually into a basic word and a basic idea. This is another idea I wanted to show you. This is something I actually pitched to the New Yorker. So, there's so much controversy about inoculations and people getting shots but there's also there are these horrible incidents of the swine flu. So, I thought there's got to be something I can do, there has to be some kind of an image I make about that, so this is what I came up with. Because it's the swine flu, it's a doctor pig giving a needle to a little baby pig. It hints at something very serious, but again, in a kind of humorous manner. In this third sketch that I want to show you, this was in the news a couple of years ago, this was the horrific incident of Trayvon Martin where he was shot by- I think we all know the story, he was shot by Mr. Zimmerman. So I was thinking is there any way that I can show that visually, that I can explain something visually, and I thought of emoji of the screen. I thought it actually fit perfectly because there is this horrific sense in that painting of somebody following you, I think in the painting itself there are some figures behind the person and I thought it actually was a really good way to refer back to an older painting by making it a little bit more current that it had a lot of emotional depth to it. So, basically what I do is I just put a hoodie on him and I thought that it framed the idea pretty well. The fourth example I want to show you is actually a portrait of Lance Armstrong. It was through all the denials and all the times that he said he hadn't taken steroids or whatever illegal drugs he was taking. So, I actually just thought of the word Pinocchio because it seemed as though I just visually thought of Pinocchio as he was telling more and more lies. So the word that I was using was simply Pinocchio and the way to illustrate it was actually drawing Pinocchio on a bicycle. Again, this one was a little bit humorous. The last one, Trayvon, was a little bit more serious. So, there are any number of ways that you could illustrate an idea, and this is number four. Now I'll show you number five. This fifth idea I want to show you is about the- my word for it is immigration. Of course there is all this controversy particularly in the US about, you know, however you feel about immigration. So, I thought of this image which had to do with the idea I came up with was pinatas. But putting a twist on the pinata where the immigrant is actually the one being hung up. So it makes for a poignant picture, but it's also quite serious. It illustrates the idea of people who are coming to the US as immigrants are often victims. The best way I could think to do this was to illustrate somebody as a pinata. So, taking the metaphor, the idea of pinatas but putting darker spin on it, which I thought illustrated the idea of the victimization of some of the immigrants very well. So, I think in those five examples you can see how I would approach an idea illustrating an idea as a visual. But, again, it's very personal. So, I'm not telling you to draw one way or the other. What I'm trying to do is get you to look at things that are going on in the world or culturally or even in music or in the arts and try to figure out how you feel about it, because I want you to put in a big element of yourself into the image. So again, what I want you to do is pick something, pick some kind of an idea and attach one word to it and we'll take it from there in step number two. 2. Developing Your Idea: Okay, so step one, is choose your idea. Now, there should be any number of things going on in the world that appeal to you one way or the other, either positively or negatively. So, I'll show you five examples of ways that I've visualized an idea. So, let's start with the number one. This is an example that I came up with. This is something that happened when Rome or Italy was threatening to leave the European Union. So, I came up with the word of Exodus and I started thinking how could I illustrate that using metaphor, using emotion, and basically came up with this idea using the old Roman urns that were decorated with Olympians. Since it's called Exodus, I've got them, instead of being on the urn, I've got them leaving the urn. So, it's just a little visual play on words, but it's how you can begin to illustrate ideas, sometimes with humor, sometimes in a more serious manner, but you can just bring something interesting visually into a basic word and a basic idea. Okay, this is another idea I wanted to show you. This is something I actually pitched to the New Yorker. So, this is something that there's so much controversy about inoculations, and people getting shots, but there are these horrible incidences of the swine flu. So, I thought there's got to be something there. There has to be some kind of an image I could make about that. So, this is what I came up with. Because it's the swine flu. It's a doctor pig giving a needle to a little baby pig. It hints at something very serious, but again, in humorous manner. In this third sketch that I want to show you, this was in the news a couple of years ago. This is the horrific incident of Trayvon Martin where he was shot by, we all know the story, he was shot by Mr. Zimmerman. So, I was thinking is there any way that I can show that visually, that I can explain something visually. I thought of emoji of the scream. I thought it actually fit perfectly because there's this horrific sense in that painting of somebody following you. I think in the painting itself, there is some figures behind the person, and I thought it actually was a really good way to refer back to an older painting, by making it a little bit more current that it had a lot of emotional depth to it. So basically, what I do is I just put a hoodie on him and I thought that it was framed the idea pretty well. The fourth example I want to show you is actually a portrait of Lance Armstrong, and it was through all the denials and all the times that he said he hadn't taken steroids or whatever illegal drugs he was taking. So, I actually just thought of the word Pinocchio because I just visually thought of Pinocchio as he was sort of telling more and more lies. So, the word that I was using was simply Pinocchio and the way to illustrate it was actually drawing Pinocchio on a bicycle. Again, this one was a little bit humorous. The last one, Trayvon, was a little bit more serious. So, there are any number of ways that you can illustrate an idea. This is number four, and now I'll show you number five. This fifth idea I want to show you is about the- my word for it is immigration, and of course there is all this controversy, particularly in the US, about however you feel about immigration. So, I thought of this image which had to do with- the idea I came up with was piñatas, but putting a twist on the piñata where the immigrant is actually the one being hung up. So, it makes for a poignant picture, but it's also quite serious. It illustrates the idea of people who are coming to the US as immigrants are often victims, and the best way I could think to do this was to illustrate somebody as a piñata. So, taking the metaphor, the idea of piñata's, but putting the darker spin on it, which I thought illustrated the idea of the victimization of some of the immigrants very well. So, I think in those five examples, you can see how I would approach an idea, illustrating an idea as a visual. But again, it's very personal. So, I'm not telling you to draw one way or the other. What I'm trying to do is get you to look at things that are going on in the world or culturally, or even in music or in the arts and try to figure out how you feel about it, because I want you to put in a big element of yourself into the image. So again, what I want you to do is pick something, pick some an idea and attach one word to it and we'll take it from there in step number two. 3. Concepting: Step two. If you're taking this class, you're probably an artistic slash visual person, anyway. So often when you think of ideas, you think in pictures anyway. I know I do, I've always thought in that way. But these days, we have at our disposal a lot of tools that we can use. So, if you've got your word or if you've got your concept, your idea that you want to elaborate upon, you can use Google. I mean, we have all these new tools that we can use now. Google is a fantastic tool. One thing that that I use often is the dictionary or a thesaurus just to get me thinking laterally, just to get me thinking in pictures. One thing that you will probably know, if you've ever done this type of thing before, is that often ideas come to you when you're least expecting them. If you're maybe going for a run or if you're in the shower or if you think of something and then let it go for a while and then come back, oftentimes you'll have a visual in your head. Your brain will have already solved the problem. If that doesn't happen, and a lot of times we as artists get stuck, what I use is a technique of word association. So, I'm going to show you a little bit now how that would work. Okay. So, my topic is corporate greed. So I've made a list of words that are associated with corporate greed. Money, bank, world, globe, business person, fat cash, bag of cash, shark, dough. This can go, I mean you can make a longer list, you can make a shorter list, but what we're trying to get you to do is start thinking in terms of visuals and associations. So, I've got my list there. Now, what I can do from that list is make an even longer list. So, money, for instance, suggests words like filthy lucre, treasure, wealth, almighty dollar, silver gold. Bank could be something as strange as a river bank, bankrupt, broke. But as you can see, I'm starting to create a list of words that are associated with my original word. Now, I can take my second column and make a third column, but what I will have is a number of words that are associated with my original idea, and when I have that, I can sit back and I can just clear my mind and see if there is a visual that comes from interesting associations with all of the different words. What I would say is when you start brainstorming in this way, don't try to censor yourself until later. Just try to think of all the words that come to your head. Okay. So, what I'm going to do is try to utilize the words that appeal to me the most and illustrating the idea of corporate greed. So, I've had to look at all of these words and I'm just loving the word shark. My secondary list says wild kill, ruthless, man eater, and I think emotionally that that illustrates the idea of greed pretty well. But I also need to get some idea of the corporate aspect to it, so I'm probably going to illustrate a business person. So, ultimately, my idea is going to be a business person as a shark, and it's as simple as that. 4. Sketching Ideas: Okay, step three is the sketching part. I mean, I have a lot of sketches that are really really rough that I draw all over the place. Sometimes, I advise students to keep sketchbooks, so you keep everything organized. In any event, this stage doesn't really need to be that perfect. When you're drawing, when you're sketching something out, it can be rough at the beginning, just so you get some idea of how you want to design the page, how you want to fit it into the format, et cetera. The other thing that we're going to talk briefly about is using picture reference. I've decided to do a businessman as a shark, so obviously it's best to use your own reference, but I don't have any pictures of sharks that I own. So, what I usually do is put photo reference all around the drawing that I am doing, just so that I can refer back to the photographs. It's really important not to trace or copy photographs exactly, because they are the copyright of the photographer and they really belong to the photographer. The trick is to get the information from the photograph, the information but not the exact photograph. That's why I use multiple photography reference so, that I can sort of examine the structure, in this case of the shark. So, I'm just going to start to sketch. So what I've got, my initial sketch as you can see, is really, really rough. I mean, I don't really care about the line work. What I care most about is that it's going to have an interesting shape. When I squint my eyes, I see that it's going to be an interesting composition and that's really the thing that I'm most concerned about at this stage. So when I draw like this, I usually start with a really, really rough sketch like this, and a lot of the process of illustrating or composing pictures has to do with different elements from different scraps of reference, and often a lot of it has to do with making up the difference. So, I would say these pictures are a combination of reference and using my own imagination. I always draw on tracing paper. I think tracing paper is the artist's best friend because as you can see, I've started with something really rough and now I can go over it, I still have the basic structure of the drawing but I can keep drawing over and over and over, until I refine the drawing to the point at which I want to transfer it to the board. So, I'm just going to work a little bit on this one. Again, I've already resolved the basic structure, and I've decided in the process that I want to make him a little bit more anthropomorphic, so he isn't just entirely a shark, but also make him a little bit more human looking. So, as you can see, I've gone through the various steps and now I'm at the stage where I think I'm ready to take what I've got here and transfer it onto the board so I can start the painting. Okay. Once, I'm happy with the sketch, what I'm going to do is prepare it for the painting. So, the way that I transfer the sketch onto the board is to turn it over. Again, I'm using my tracing paper, and what I'll do is I'll draw on the back of it so that I can turn it over and rub it down onto the final board. So, here we go. This doesn't need to be too detailed because I'm going to resolve a lot of it in the final painting. Just refining and preparing this sketch for a painting. At this point, I've done my sketch and I've traced the other side so that I can transfer this onto my illustration board. Now obviously, this is something I'm doing for myself. If this had been an assignment for a magazine, there would have also been verbal cues from the manuscript, and I certainly would have taken those into account when I did the sketch process. Also, at this point, if this were a real job, I would send an outline, I would send a sketch like this to the art director for approval. Frequently these days, magazines and publishers like to see more than one idea, so referring back to my word lists, I might have come up with three, four, sometimes even five different ideas from them to choose. But for the purposes of this class, let's just move ahead with this. So, I'm going to transfer this down to the board now. I usually work with crescent illustration board. I find that it's a really great surface and I can work with all kinds of different materials and nothing happens to the board. It's really good strong board. I could work layer over layer over layer, and nothing happens to it, it maintains its integrity. What I have now is a rough idea of the underlying drawing of what's going to end up being the painting. Usually what I do, is I put in nice sun I put some tape down so that it ultimately will have nice edges when it's finished. So basically, what I'm going to do now is take my time and just with watercolor articulate the detail. Right now, I'm going to start putting a bunch of detail in. This is again, I'm just laying in the outline, a little bit of the values but this is again just the base. Right now, I'm concerned with just blocking in the shapes and that's what I'm doing now. I've developed this way of actually saving a step. I mean, what I used to do is draw something really detailed in pencil on the board but with editorial illustration, sometimes the deadlines are so incredibly tied that wherever you can skip a step, it's really helpful so that you have more time with the final. 5. Illustrating: What I've developed is this method for working very, very loosely and also, in a very detailed manner in the same painting. So, what I do is typically, when I get an area like this, what I do is I take liquid frisket and I isolate just the area so that I can paint very loosely in the background and sort of be loose so that I won't have to worry about the edges. When I take the liquid frisket off because it dries as a solid, it dries as a rubbery solid, then I'll have this lovely clean board underneath that will be relatively undisturbed and I can start painting on the foreground. What I've done is I've put two coats, two thick coats of liquid frisket over the main foreground part and that's the figure. So, now, that area is protected. So, now, I can just have some fun and paint the background. I'm doing a very simplistic demo here but you can actually get a lot more complicated if you want. You can do multiple areas and paint loosely and then, it's a matter of just planning a little bit. I can just start painting and I can play with the materials a little bit, I can let some things bleed into others. The watercolor has really nice characteristics. I can go layer over layer and as you can see, I don't have to worry. I don't have to worry about the edges, I can just go layer over layer over layer and it's interesting like I'm doing water now but I'm also going to let a little bit of the water bleed. It looks like water. So, often I use techniques like this just to help me articulate what is going on. So, it doesn't even take that long, it takes way less time than if I had put down the blue and I would have at that point had to go around, make sure the edges are nice on the shark but if I do this, I can just do it very quickly and that's it. So, now we've got the background done and I'm ready to take up the liquid frisket, which has dried nicely and as you can see, all I need to do is take it up like that and I have really lovely edges and that took me a fraction of the time that it would have taken me to paint around it and a lot of detail. So, I'm just going to remove this and voila. So, what I do is I paint the outline, I do a little bit of shading and then when I'm done with that, I'm just going to go over it with one flat color. That allows it to sort of melt together. So, I'm just articulating the folds and the clothing. I'm making a lot of this up. A lot of times, I use reference if I have to but for the most part, I think, actually, for a lot of young artists out there, I think there's a lot of pressure to develop a style and I think you're going to get to a style much more quickly if you don't rely too heavily on reference because it can be good obviously to make sure that what you're drawing is correct but it can be too much of a crutch too and I think you'll have a much quicker track to your own style if you don't use that much reference. I'm going to put in a flat color for the suit. It's a little bit tricky but you'll get the hang of it the more you work with watercolors. It's just about blending and that's why I isolated the area before where I want to put the dark color. Like I said, the color at this point is pretty intuitive. I just know that I want something dark and again, the business suit is not that important but I still want it to look pretty decent. I want it to look like a business suit but it's not the most important thing. So, there's really a hierarchy of what's most important in this picture. Incorporate the colors. So, I'm just going to continue the color here so that it looks, so first of all, he looks a little scary which is the effect that I want and, there, that's looking good. Again, the other thing is that I want some kind of common cause. I like things that are a little bit more monochromatic, I don't like many colors all over the place, sort of discordant colors. So, I usually try to keep the color scheme pretty close. What I'm going to do for the next hour is work from what I've got here, I'm going to put layer over layer and I'll take a picture of it every 10 minutes. This is going to be just a little progression. You can see that I've put one more layer of color and this is the way that I'm going to continue, a little bit darker and then a little bit lighter and just work on the detail. This is pretty much the finished painting. 6. Finalizing: Okay. So, the actual physical painting is finished. It's an art piece and I show a lot of these in galleries as they are here. But if it's something that is for print, what I would do is scan it, 300 DPI RGB. If this would be for print for instance, I would email it to the art director. Most art directors now want things transmitted digitally. So, even though I'm still a traditional painter, I do have to know certain things. I need to know how to digitize a painting. Also, when it's at this point, I can do little things with it, for instance, I notice that it's not quite straight, so I can crop it, as you can see, just to perfect it a little bit. So, now it's cropped much nicer. I can do things like, I have a couple of animals and sometimes I get dog for embedded in the paint, and those things are really easy to fix, just with the Band aid tool in Photoshop. It's an incredible tool. Just if there are any little flaws in it, I just want to make the painting absolutely ready for print, so they don't have to worry about anything. Of course, anything that I don't like I don't want to be in there, I don't want it to look amateurish. Then, once that's done, the other thing that I typically do is, in Photoshop, I use levels and you can see that I go a little bit lighter, a little bit darker, I can do a little bit more saturation. The original isn't really that important when I'm working for a print client. So, it really doesn't matter. I mean, I can actually play as little or as much as I want in this finishing step. So, I mean, I can do things lighter or darker. I can play with color. I can add color. One thing that I typically do is a little bit of dodge and burn. What I do there is make things a little bit darker. I mean, I can just sort of continue to play a little bit. I can use Apple Z if I don't like it. But you see what I mean? I'm just making it a little bit more saturated, which is something that I'm very mindful of in print. I can never actually tell how something is going to print and I'm really sort of at the mercy of the printer, so I might do a little bit more saturation just so it might be something that I know is going to not be too light in print. I've decided sort of at the last minute, at the 11th hour, I decided to add a bit of blood because to me, he was looking a little bit too cute and not scary enough. So, I think that's pretty much it. Like I said you can work more or less in Photoshop. I don't use Photoshop that much, just to tweak a little bit at the end. So, we're done. I really look forward to seeing what what you come up with. Again, just to reiterate, I mean, this is editorial illustration so you can put a lot of yourself into it. It really does have to do with your own experiences, your own opinions. So, whatever you do, make it personal and above all, make it fun. 7. More Creative Classes on Skillshare: